Seasonal Affective Disorder or Seasonal Dysfunctional Family Disorder

I’ve been nearly hibernating for about 2 weeks now. I do this every year, and I have always been diagnosed with SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. I used to take a multitude of antidepressants to help, but it never helped much. I think I’m seeing now some patterns.

I think my responses this time of year are more related to stress than any type of cyclical affect. It starts in the Fall as school starts and my schedule fills up. I have to get up earlier than my body wants to. I am a natural night owl, despite many attempts to change this – mornings do, always will – suck. Then each evening we cram so many to-do’s into a few hours: homework headaches, dinner, extra-curriculars, bathtimes, bedtimes. I know every family handles this, and I’m pretty sure every family feels this same stress.

And then we start Holiday planning. Well, this year I made sure one stress was removed. This was the first year in my 36 years of life that I requested to have Thanksgiving and Christmas without my Father present. I never knew I could ask for that. My family never thought to  do this for me. (Can’t dwell on the ‘why’ of that one) And even though he was not there in person, he was still there in spirit, and I nearly lost my mind after Thanksgiving dinner. I was sent to such a deep dark place I nearly ended my marriage. I felt so unsafe that I even pushed away Hubby. Again. We worked on many issues, made me feel safe again, and Hubby has been back home and generally being wonderful. (Way too much to post here about the marriage – another time)

So the panic attacks prior to Christmas dinner were phenomenal. I nearly did not go. Thankfully Hubby talked me through them. We nearly did not go at all, and made it there at 7pm rather than 2pm as promised.

When we got there, my Mom was visibly annoyed at us being so late, and not knowing the reason, and says “Did you meet ____?”

“No  . . .  who?”

She points to a cheerful, maybe 12 year old girl, then smiles at my nephew David and says, “She’s going to be David’s sister” (David is not his real name, but it made no sense without a name)


It took me a second, but then I figured it out. This was my brother’s new girlfriend’s daughter. Oh my. I had no idea he was getting so serious with her. A few more conversations with another brother and I find out this new girlfriend has already moved in with my brother. And my Dad. My Dad sold his house and moved into this brother’s house when his wife left him 2 years ago.  With my nephews. My psyhopathic, pedophilic monster of  a father lives with my nephews. Despite my warnings, despite my efforts. My brother insists he has enough control over the situation, that he never allows the boys home alone with my Dad, that it is ok. I had to deal with fact, because I can not change this situation. But hearing that a young girl has now moved into this house too, well that was too much. I felt like I was punched in the stomach and would never take a full breath again.

Photo of an open fortune cookie

Leave it to my Mom to make fortune cookies dysfunctional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then in comes my Mom, in a deranged effort to make our dinner fun, she brings out fortune cookies, and requests all children (all grandchildren, not her children) to leave the kitchen. She wants us “grownup” kids to play the fortune cookie “in bed” game. (In case you don’t know this game, you read aloud the fortune followed by the phrase ‘in bed’ to make interesting, naughty fortunes) Let alone this is awkward to play with your Mom instead of friends with drinks, it was so awkward to abruptly ask the kids to leave. I should point out that there are 15 grandkids in attendance, so they keep coming in for cookies and drinks and she keeps getting angrier, but that cold, tight-lipped anger, and asks them all to leave the room. Instead I do. I go out to the front porch for a literal cooling down.

Hubby follows me out there, and we talk a bit, and I tell him I want to leave. He asks if he can talk to my brother for me. I say Yes, and so he does. I felt so supported, by at least one person in this craziness. And I focused on playing with the kids – the whole reason I go to these events, to get to see my nieces and nephews. Much later, Hubby and my brother emerge from a bedroom, neither looking too upset. We went back outside, and he told me that the girlfriend knows about the dangers of my Dad, and that they have lots of rules in place. I don’t feel much better, but at least I feel less responsible. I did my duty to warn anyone who comes in contact with this evil man. What they do with the information is out of my control. (I so much want to feel good about that, and let it go, but it is soo, so hard not to worry about those children) My brother thinks my Dad is no longer a physical threat, due to his emphysema, as he can no longer stand, and moves about only with an electric scooter. He actually said he encourages the kids to make crazy wild messes in their rooms, feeling secure that the scooter could not traverse the messy floor and grant access to sleeping children. I of course think this is bullshit. But I have to let it go. I see nothing else I can do. But pray those children remain untouched.

Why? Why does my brother allow this monster to live with him? Is it a sense of obligation? Unresolved guilt? Does he get something from it? I actually wondered if he thought of my Dad as a prisoner, and is getting off on the feeling of controlling him. I just don’t know. I barely talk to my family, and basically only see them for the Holidays.

So this year, my SAD, seems to be SDFD (Seasonal Dysfunctional Family Disorder). (Yes this is my attempt at humor to make the best of a crappy situation) Panic is in full swing. I am having trouble showering (just not thinking of it) every day, and forgetting what I was up to in the middle of tasks. I have been extremely anxious and jumpy. If the kids get too excited and speak too loudly too quickly, it feels like a gunshot in my head. I have had terrible nightmares, nearly every night. They are so gruesome that I avoid going to sleep some nights. I have found myself staying up all night play Sim games instead. It seems if I sleep in 3-4 hour batches, I avoid the nasty scenes. I have panic attacks in my sleep too, unrelated to dreams. I wake up feeling like I am choking.

My vitamin D level is normal now. I have a daylight therapy lamp. I have a weekly dance class. I go outside everytime the sun shines (twice here in the last month-ugh) and try to build a snowman or something with the kids.  I am not suicidal, and not even thinking of giving up. I am not depressed. I am not manic. I am just not me. I am anxious and exhausted. So very tired. I am waiting for my system to return to normal from all that stress. I am trying not to eat everything in sight. Trying. Keeping going.

Hubby is wearing thin, taking on too much again. I am sorry for this, but accepting that it just has to be this way until I recover again. I’m doing what I can. It isn’t fair, but I never promised fair. Just need to control my wicked tongue. I say hurtful things when I don’t feel well about myself. The inner critic turns outward. Sorry Hubby – I truly am, and I will try to be more gentle to all of us, including me.

Christmas in my own house, with my own Hubby and kids was magical, beautiful, and so entirely wonderful. I will hold on to that forever, just hold tight.



13 thoughts on “Seasonal Affective Disorder or Seasonal Dysfunctional Family Disorder

  1. I understand your panicky feeling more than you know. I’ve lived it within my own extended family. It can freak us out to re-live the idea of another child being hurt by the same man that hurt us. It sucks to have no control over the situation.

    Here’s my story. I got married when I was 25 years old. My brother, the perpetrator of incest with me, was at my wedding. He hooked up with my husband’s sister and they began a long distance relationship. I went into panic mode when I heard this because my S-I-L had two girls from a previous marriage. They were 8 and 10 and I loved them dearly. I feared for their safety, thinking of my brother staying at this S-I-L’s house with the girls sleeping in their own rooms at night caused major anxiety. My panic was so out-of-this-world HIGH that I confronted my brother and accused him of the crime he committed upon me. That’s when the secret came out in the open. My brother admitted it, talked to his pastor and my mother but none of that made me feel better. I sought therapy and so my recovery began.

    I don’t mean to go into such length except I hope you don’t feel so alone. I understand the anxiety you feel for your brother’s girlfriend’s kids. I feel scared for them too. Unfortunately we have seen the dark side of people and we know what they are capable of. But, you did all you can. Let that situation go and focus on what you can control which is your own beautiful family and keeping your children safe.

    I knew your hubby was a good man and I’m glad you and he worked things out. Don’t worry about him doing too much, remember all those nights you were up with the babies? It all evens out. 🙂

    xoxoxo Daylily

    • Thank you for sharing, it does help me feel less alone. In fact your whole comment was soothing to me and has made me smile. I am proud of you for speaking up to your siblings so long ago. I know exactly how hard that is. And I understand all too well the guilt and shame you carry. And the responsibility to protect others. It can be too much sometimes, so it means a lot to know other survivors, each of us on our own journey, forwards and backwards. Yes my Hubby is a good man. Even when I asked him to leave, I knew he was a good man. But I was terrified by him. The panic at his glance and touch was too much for either of us to handle. I was in such a bad place, transported back nearly 20 years in how I used to fear any touch at all. I was so afraid that would last forever, and so thankful to be able to enjoy his embrace again. What a wild ride this life is. xoxoxo to you too my friend.

  2. (((R2B)))) I don’t know how you do it. How you manage those family gatherings at all. I think you must be very brave to endure it all.

    I’m praying for that child and your nephews. It makes my stomach hurt to think about it.

    I like your idea of SDFD. This past holiday season was hard. In the midst of it, I thought I was handling it, but I think now, I was just keeping my head above the water.

    Wishing you the best. And some sunshine.

    • Thank you for the kind words Jessie. Yes, just keeping our heads above water is good enough. Thanks for the sunshine wish, but not gonna happen here much this time of year. Few more months. Brrr.

  3. I can’t understand why they put up with that insanity either. Taking that kind of risk. No wonder you’re stressed. You will make it through. It won’t be neat or tidy, but no matter how messy it will be more real than ever before. You will do better and better. Praying for you.

    • Yes I just want to shake each and every one of them. There are so many options for a sick old man. He has money. He could has an assisted living apartment, a senior apartment with nurses to check in, or even a nursing home. Instead he chooses to mooch off his most neglected son and feed him guilt. The brother he is living with never had any attention from Dad, and is quickly learning what a controlling A-hole he can be, so maybe he needs to see that part of him to believe the danger?? Trying to accept the whole rotten situation. And you are right. I am real now, and will do better.

  4. Sometimes your posts knock me sideways as you share your raw emotions in describing such a chaotic and desperate situation. This is one of those posts that I had to read several times. You show such insight and strength.
    I’m so glad that you had some lightness and brightness over Christmas with your husband and kids. And it’s not surprising that you are feeling so low.
    Take care of yourself .xo

    • Well, sorry I guess for knocking you sideways? I don’t feel insightful, but thanks for that. I do feel stronger. And grateful for being able to enjoy some precious, beautiful moments fully.

  5. I am so glad you asked that your father not be there, that is a good step for you and for everyone else too. What your brother is doing is irresponsible, but you cannot and should not own it as terrible as that sounds you have done all you can to warn him, perhaps talking to the new girlfriend to make certain she really does know the situation but beyond there is nothing you can do.

    I am glad you have a light. When I lived in Seattle I used one for the long winters, it helped.

    • Yes that was the right thing to do for all of us. Wish I could have done it sooner, but I wasn’t ready. It took me this many years to realize the full extent of my childhood, and to believe I was worthy to ask for anything for myself. At this point, I have to trust that my brother and my mom have spoken to her. My brother may be acting irresponsibly, but I don’t believe he is lying. The story also checks out with my nephew, he was complaining about all the rules and that he is never allowed to stay home alone even though he is 11. My brothers are generally good people, just blindsided by how evil our Dad really is. Only Me and Mom really know what he is capable of.

  6. Pingback: Holiday Aftermath | Roots to Blossom

  7. I have SDFD too. My counselor pointed it out after the third downward spiral at Thanksgiving. It starts around Thanksgiving and doesn’t calm down until after New Year. I feel settled by Valentine’s day. It sucks. I am really sorry that your brother is so blind to not realize that predators have a way of behaving that isn’t just touching but making a person feel awful in so many different ways. I so understand why you feel down about this. Mega bummer.

  8. Thanks for writing so honestly about what many of us experience at the holdays. At my parents’ hme at any holiday there was always someone sick and someone crying. It wasn’t always the same person, but it always occurred because of the dyfunctional family situation. I also blog at Far From Normal ( Please check it out.

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